Wrangles Agave Spirit Brands of Promise for History Making Promotional Roundup
For Immediate Release!
SAN ANTONIO, TX, UNITED STATES, October 3, 2017
Like the early settlers of the frontier, Tequila Aficionado Media goes west. Driving a prairie schooner (actually, a travel trailer) loaded with distilled agave spirits—26 brands with 58 distinct expressions in all–to share at private events, public pairing dinners, pop up seminars, and educational catas (tastings) throughout the month of October.
“Our tours are all about co-creating meaningful brand stories for craft agave spirits worthy of the public’s attention,” explains Lisa Pietsch, CMO of Tequila Aficionado Media and Co-Founder of TequilaPR.
“According to current statistics,” states Mike Morales, CEO of Tequila Aficionado Media and Co-Founder of TequilaPR, “three of the top ten tequila consuming states is out west, and that’s exactly where we’re headed.”
With the determination of the Pony Express, Tequila Aficionado Media’s Wild Wild West 2017 Tour will barnstorm to rowdy saloons and ghost towns in Van Horn, Texas, White Sands, New Mexico, and Tombstone, Arizona.
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On the route is a whistle stop at the famed Elvira’s Tequila Cocina Vino in Tucson, Arizona where Terralta Tequila from legendary 3rd Generation Master Distiller Felipe Camarena will be introduced along with an exciting new menu.
Developed by Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses in Austin, Texas, the jarrito tumbler is expected to revolutionize the glassware industry by being more aesthetic and organoleptically accurate than other vessels currently used to sample and judge Mexican agave spirits.
“The range of agave spirits on this year’s Wild Wild West 2017 Tour is some of the finest sampling of Mexican agave spirits we’ve ever travelled with,” declares Morales. “We urge you to try them for yourself.”
For a complete list of participating agave spirits on the Wild Wild West 2017 Tour, click here. For ticket information on El Cholo’s Tequila Tour, go here or call 626-795-5800. More about Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses is here.
All tequilas and other agave spirits are always tasted at room temperature.
As I had been instructed by a representative of Glencairn, the glass should be held at the chest or lower, and the aromas of a spirit should rise up to greet you.
Also, as I had been instructed in the past, with any type of stemmed glassware (brandy snifter, Riedel, champagne, etc.), I prefer to nose (with mouth open) by physically turning and facing to my left as I inhale through my left nostril, and doing the same movement to my right side and nostril.
Lastly, after nosing in the same manner at the front of my nose, I then use the single pass technique across my entire nose.
I prefer to hold all vessels from the stem or the foot to prevent inadvertent warming of the liquid being tasted. The jarrito was held from the bottom.
Craft Agave Spirits
Tequila(s):Cobalto Organic Blanco (NOM 1586 Destileria Casa de Piedra; 40% ABV, 80 proof).
Terralta blanco tequila (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 55% ABV, 110 proof).
Terralta extra anejo tequila (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 55% ABV, 110 proof).
Tequila G4 blanco (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 40% ABV, 80 proof).
Hacienda Vieja anejo (NOM 1412, Destiladora de los Altos; 40% ABV, 80 proof)
Los 3 Garcias blanco, reposado, anejo (NOM 1594, Casa Tequilera Alcardan K & Asociados; 40% ABV, 80 proof)
Look, feel and handling (describe the shape, proportions, weight, and balance in the hand).
An accepted tool of tequila tasting since its introduction in 2001, it is the vessel most of us have been exposed to and taught to use to appreciate tequila’s many facets.
Elegantly stemmed and reminiscent of champagne glasses, but not as narrow at the bowl, it can be easily handled and tilted, either at the stem or foot, to examine the color and clarity of the liquid without spilling.
Weighing significantly less than common champagne glasses, there is a risk of Riedels breaking, especially between the stem and bowl.
Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas.
Nosing tequilas, and some 80 proof mezcals, can be a challenge.
Depending on the tequila, and regardless of the proof (ABV), one had to be instructed to literally stick one’s nose inside the bowl and to inhale deeply to find aromas that might have been missed at the initial pass.
Alcohol burn with any proof tequila is also a real possibility while “digging in” to try and capture the scents and nuances. Frequent swirling is necessary in order for aromas to bloom and for any excess alcohol to dissipate.
While some tasters prefer the Riedel for unaged (blanco) tequilas, it was reputed by the Riedels to have been designed specifically for reposados.
That said, darker expressions of tequila (some older aged reposados, anejos and extra anejos) sampled, and their layers of complexity seem to remain, for the most part, intact.
Glencairn whiskey nosing glass:
Feel and handling (shape, proportions, weight, balance in the hand):
Long associated almost exclusively with the whisky and scotch industries, as well as its aficionados, it has been widely favored and accepted by tequila cognoscenti “oak heads” for many years.
In fact, it has been preferred over the Riedel Ouverture, especially in tasting and enjoying the more aged tequilas.
Known for its distinctive thick foot and bell shaped bowl ending in an extended neck chimney, it has the same size opening as the Riedel. This allows for more even mouth surface (and ultimately palate) coverage with which to sip, savor and nose a spirit.
Its footed base keeps the vessel steady on any flat surface without the danger of breaking any stems as is often the case with Riedels when accidentally knocked over.
The thickness of the foot is ideal for handling the Glencairn. Swirling, nosing and sipping are done easily, without inadvertently warming the liquid inside. Its design is very pleasing to the eye, as well.
Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas:
The Glencairn’s construction allows the taster to discern aromas and nuances often overlooked or muted by other accepted glassware without completely extinguishing the necessary effects of any excess alcohol.
In the case of sampling blanco tequilas, and in particular high proof blancos, I believe the bell (bowl) allows for any excess alcohol to become trapped long enough to not interfere with the nosing process.
As I mentioned earlier, the Glencairn efficiently presents any spirits’ aromas when held in close proximity to the nose.
I believe the thinness and strength of the glass Glencairn uses to produce its vessels is the secret to its value and versatility.
It is just about the perfect glass for any spirit, including tequila, and everyday use.
Stolzle jarrito tumbler:
Feel and handling (shape, proportions, weight, balance in the hand):
In the attempt to craft a drinking vessel that could ultimately be associated exclusively with Mexican agave spirits of all types, both styles of jarritos (tumblers) are uniquely designed without a stem or handle which are both European inventions.
Both jarritos have a slightly weighted flattened base. One model has a more extended neck similar to the Glencairn or Riedel. The other model has a slightly shorter neck and a bit wider circumference providing even more mouth surface, and eventually, palate coverage by the sampled liquid. Both have a slightly bell shaped bowl, not unlike the Glencairn.
Also, similar to the Glencairn, I believe its bell or bowl allows for the non-interference of excess alcohol when nosing higher proof tequilas and mezcals while still discerning the spirits’ various aromas.
Our CMO, Lisa Pietsch, particularly enjoyed the “hand feel” of both jarritos.
Gracefully designed, the jarritos seem to naturally invite the casual sipper to wrap his or her fingers around the bowl and neck of the vessel, allowing the impression of becoming more “intimate” with the agave spirit inside.
For judging purposes, the natural reflex to hold the vessel by the bowl can be circumvented by simply placing the jarrito on a flat surface and nosing from a standing position, if necessary.
The base of both models is still wide enough to hold the jarrito securely by the fingertips to swirl and sniff. The danger of inadvertently warming the liquid inside by using this technique is negligible.
Finally, the thickness of the jarrito glass is just millimeters thicker than the Glencairn. The short necked jarrito is also slightly thicker than the long necked one.
Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas:
Glassware:Extended neck jarrito.
Nosing (80 proof tequila)
The floral aromas were instantly noticeable without having to swirl the jarrito to help aerate the liquid. Upon closer nosing, the fruit aromas became very prevalent, as well.
In the case of Tequila G4, there was an instantly discernible scent of wet cement perceived at just the initial pass through. Normally, this particular aroma isn’t evident until after several attempts using the Riedel Ouverture.
Nosing (110 proof tequila)
The sharpness remained as above.
As with any high proof spirit, there would be significant alcohol present, however, only at the bottom of the glass where it belongs. In this case, the alcohol was not at all offensive or aggressive.
Again, I was taken aback by how lucid and sharp the liquid tasted on the intake.
Glassware:Short neck jarrito.
Nosing and Intake (110 proof tequila)
Same as long necked jarrito, however…
Both the nose and the intake showcased significantly sweeter elements in the Terralta extra anejo that was both surprising and pleasing.
Terralta is a very complex tequila to begin with, but the short neck jarrito stood up to the challenge.
Overall Impressions and Recommendations
Incongruence between nosing and tasting…
For those of us using Riedels exclusively to assess tequilas and all other agave spirits, it is not uncommon to perceive an imbalance or incongruence between nosing and tasting.
I believe, at least in tequila competitions and tastings that I have been involved in, that frequent re-tastings or re-pours are necessary for the judge to determine accurate ratings and/or flavor notes.
Tasting in HD…
In nosing 80 proof tequilas with the jarrito, I was struck by how sharply and easily it was to discern the separate aromas from each other.
It was like watching television in HD, or hearing the notes on a finely tuned piano for the first time. The nuances and subtleties of the tequilas came across loud and clear. It was very exciting.
The presence of alcohol…
In nosing 110 proof tequilas, and having spoken to well known tequila master distillers at length, the presence of alcohol is a necessary element for the spirit itself to express its unique characteristics and aromas.
Any attempt to eliminate its presence, either by using specific glassware designed to do so, using ice, or additives included during the spirits’ rectification process, only serve to mask a potential flaw or to mute other pertinent characteristics inherent in the spirit.
For this reason, I look for and expect a certain amount of alcohol.
Criticism against Glencairn…
There have been some reviews by a few critics of the Glencairn that it presents the aromas and flavors of the liquid inside “almost too brightly.”
While I’ve never experienced this effect, to me, there is no such thing as presenting a liquid “too brightly.”
My belief is that over reliance on the Riedel Ouverture tequila glass has possibly trained “catadores” (tequila tasters) to become “nose blind” to certain aromas. In the long run, the Riedel’s design doesn’t do agave spirits justice.
If a vessel is properly constructed, it should allow both the connoisseur and the layman an equal footing in making professional judging determinations at competitions, or simply personal buying decisions for one’s enjoyment.
In my opinion, the jarrito does as comparable a job in presenting agave spirits—perhaps even more so—than the Glencairn.
Marketability and acceptance of the jarrito tumblers…
My first reaction was to use the shorter necked jarrito to taste mezcals, and the longer necked one for tequilas. My reason for this is that I use a Glencairn Canadian whisky glass almost exclusively for mezcals and felt the short necked jarrito was a natural progression.
The longer necked jarrito reminded me of the traditional Glencairn or Riedel Ouverture, which is why I chose it for tequilas.
Apart from the individual properties of each agave spirit that I tasted, what I found most gratifying about using the jarrito was that there was a consistency of nosing-to-flavor that is often lacking in other glassware.
After using both jarrito models interchangeably between tequilas and mezcals, the differences were slight.
The higher proof liquids seemed to be presented better in the shorter jarrito with the slightly thicker glass, while the 80 proof spirits compared equally favorably to the Glencairn whisky glass using the longer necked tumbler.
Mezcal has no official glassware like tequila does. Most traditional or ancestral mezcals at higher alcohol grades are usually served in gourds or clay “copitas” without masking their true characteristics. Instead, these vessels seem to enhance the complexity of the mezcals.
In other words, one could serve a well made mezcal from a tennis shoe without affecting the overall flavor profile!
For this reason, the marketability of two distinct glasses—one for tequila and one for mezcal, or other agave spirits—may not be a bad idea.
Some are labels that have been around for awhile, or re-launched with extended expressions to their core lines, and presumably, flush with cash from investors (we’ll circle back to this subject a bit later).
But, most are start ups in the agave spirits arena.
At press time, agave prices have skyrocketed from 1.7 Mexican pesos ($0.089) per kilo in 2013 to 10 pesos at the end of 2016, according to this recent article in Barron’s.
Our own sources claim that agave prices in May 2017 have hit a high of 14 pesos per kilo. During the crisis of the late 1990s, agave prices reached an unprecedented 18 pesos per kilo!
The price hike has even taken a bite out of Jose Cuervo’s profits. They more than made up for it, though, with their successful IPO this past February.
You may ask, “Don’t these new brands know we’re in the midst of another agave crisis?”
Bear in mind that many of these labels have been in the works for at least 3 years or more, well before a shortage was predicted, and well before this happened…
The timing of an agave spirit’s launch is, more often than not, dependent on its financial forecasts.
If you’re one of these newcomers, just take a deep breath and jump in.
I once asked Christopher Zarus, the innovator of the world’s only take home tequila tasting kit, TequilaRack®, why he chose to showcase only small batch, micro-distilled reposados from esteemed tequila making families in his collections.
He explained that a well made reposado was one of the most difficult tasks in creating a dynamic line of tequilas. He felt that it could literally make or break a brand.
When rocker Roger Clyne first entered the market with Mexican Moonshine tequila, he insisted on doing so with a reposado, even though he admitted, “…at the time, this was considered commercial suicide.”
Traditionally acknowledged as the ideal half-way point between a brilliant blanco and an elegant anejo, the reposado, for at least the past few years, seemed to have been treated by some brands as an afterthought, at best.
With the popularity of pepper infused spirits like Fireball Whisky, and subsequent copycats, it seems only natural that agave spirits companies take notice.
Of the upcoming crop of pepper saturated agave is…
Spider Monkey Agave Spirit (Serrano pepper and ginger); Get Hot Tequila, a reposado imbued with Habanero peppers; and, speaking of Fireball, the man responsible for its immense popularity, Richard Alexander Pomes, presents Ghost Tequila, enlivened by the infamous, India-born ghost pepper.
Just remember that when you’re basking in the endorphins from having your salsa and drinking it, too, that the addition of alcohol on your tongue reactivates the oils inherent in the pepper’s capsaicin.
Cocktail recipe photos are hugely popular on just about any social media platform that they are shared on. The follower engagement is off the chain, in particular with Millennials.
It’s a well known fact that the prevailing cocktail culture around the world is driving the Spirits Industry. But, once these concoctions and their ingredients are made public, they are being pilfered by these young people and served to friends and family at their cribs.
It’s apparent that Millennials seek to drink better than their older relatives. Given that, signature cocktails are still a valuable commodity to agave spirits brands, but not necessarily for bars and restaurants.
Tequila–and most all agave spirits, for that matter–has outgrown the Riedel Ouverture tequila tasting glass.
Don’t get us wrong. It’s still a viable tool. But…
The level of quality craft agave spirits flooding liquor store shelves, and the emphasis on single estate and organic tequilas and mezcals, now demands a better sipping glass in order to enjoy their unique, regional properties.
This fact had not been lost to oak heads.
For several years, whisky and scotch drinkers had opted to use the Glencairn glasses to not only enjoy anejos and extra anejos, but blancos and reposados, as well.
It can also be argued that the use of inadequate tasting and nosing glasses in the past few years has influenced–and possibly skewed–the results for valuable medals awarded by some of the most respected tasting competitions around the country. So much so, that the judges’ final decisions are laughable.
Earlier, we hinted about some dormant tequila brands that have suddenly been revived by wads of money.
It seems that every other day, family-run investment firms contact us at HQ looking for hot tips on where to park their cash that’s burning holes into their conservative, yet very deep, pockets.
We were also recently offered a fee by a well known celebrity to taste test the newest version of his tequila, versus the Usual Suspects. We gracefully declined.
But it got us thinking. Whether you’re a megastar or a moneybags…
Why go through all the trouble of launching, or relaunching, a tequila from scratch when there are so many labels out there for sale?
As predicted by Patrón tequila’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lee Applbaum in this article, the Great Agave Shakeout has begun.
The road to Tequila Nirvana is currently littered with brands that could not sustain the required 5 year threshold of longevity, let alone a 10 year marketing plan.
Many have withered away consumed by mismanagement, overwhelm, lack of distribution support, or simply investment underestimation.
Instead of going through all the trouble of conceptualizing and heavily funding a whole new agave spirits marque with a least a dozen other investors, why not take a page from Jim Driscoll, owner of Ekeko Wines and Spirits, and importer of Demetrio tequila?
Seek a distressed brand that had something going for it, and that you can make better.
You may find, after some thorough due diligence, that before hitting the skids the brand showed considerable promise and can be purchased—lock, stock, and barrels—for a song.
Or, you may discover that the concept for the juice was designed exclusively for the international Duty Free market, completely escaping the drudgery of the Three Tier System.
The road to the Kingdom of Agave Heaven won’t be any easier, but at least some of the requisite start up costs could be minimized.
Warning: The Quality of Your Mass Produced Tequila is about to get Worse
Word on the streets of the Highlands of Jalisco is that the Big Boys have bought up all the 3 year old agave in the region. Younger plants simply do not contain the minimum amount of agave sugars (measured in brix) required by the normas to make tequila.
As soon as 2 year old agaves turn 3, they are sure to be snatched up by coyotes (agave middlemen).
Coyotes for the Usual Suspects are desperately seeking magueys from reputable growers who are now sitting in the catbird seat, ready to hike agave prices even further.
Those boutique agaveros who are holding 4 and 5 year old plants are poised to make a killing in the agave market in the following few months and years.
Meanwhile, back at The Lab…
Analyzed samples of these mass produced tequilas are being rejected because they reportedly contain too little alcohol from blue weber agave, and too much from added sugars.
Watch for increased use of diffuser technology to extract maximum agave juices and sugars in order to fulfill worldwide demand, and—